Tag Archives: riot police

Greek demo dress code: plain clothes

An interesting video was filmed last night during the extensive riots that took place after the demo in honour of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos who was assassinated by a policeman on December 2008.

Greek demonstrators often mention the existence of plain clothes policemen and the infiltration of agent provocateurs in demonstrations in Greece. I too used to believe that this was some kind of a conspiracy theory until I started attending demos after 2009. International media have been reluctant to report on this (with some exceptions) with correspondents finding it difficult to believe that such totalitarian practices are still being used in an EU country.

But this video, filmed last night in Exarchia district of Athens and posted on YouTube by Sto Kokkino radio, shows clearly a big number of what would otherwise look like “a band of hoodies or violent rioters” passing by a team of riot police, heading towards the district’s square where anarchists had set up barricades.

The Greek government does not acknowledge the use of such practices, nor is it expected to comment on the issue after the publication of this video.

Upd: Here’s a second video from the same place/time (Thanks Janine Louloudi).

Greece 2012

The things that are happening are starting to be too many. They can overwhelm you. We are living in a kind of post-apocalyptic situation where everything is collapsing. Incomes, values, morality… A society that is suffocating. Here’s how I saw Greece today, 12 October 2012, through some headlines.

Graffiti by Sidron – NDA Crew, photo by Kostas Kallergis

Unemployment has reached 25,1% (official stats for July 2012). Among young people the number is 54,2%. Yes, 1 out of 2 young Greeks is looking for a job. Needless to say that among those who are working, there is a percentage who doesn’t get paid. Employers owe more and more salaries to their employees because of cash shortages. But these are just percentages, misery turned to statistics. You only need to sit down and think that, practically, around 1.000 Greeks are losing their job every day. One thousand people. Every day.

The government is about to announce another round of harsh austerity measures. Lots of cuts and more taxes. How much more can you tax a country? How are they going to pay? Where on earth did economic growth come thanks to more and more taxes? The country gave what it had to give, now it’s time for the officials to see that their predictions for more state revenues through taxes are superficial. Some days ago, one of the biggest dairy firms in Greece (FAGE) announced that it is moving part of its operations, for accounting purposes of course, to Luxembourg. Some days later another one among the biggest Greek companies (Coca-Cola) made a similar announcement sending shockwaves to the markets.

On another weird story, the Minister of Maritime Affairs spoke to an audience at the Maritime Club of Piraeus. He told people there that the troika had this idea. To evacuate all the islands which are inhabited by less than 150 people in order to cut down on public expenses (coz they still need schools, doctors, local administration and subsidised transport connection to the mainland). Of course, it was not an official request from the troika but probably a lower level official making a joke. But the Minister, like any random amateur, said this in public. And the Minister of Finance, who in theory carries out the day-to-day negotiations with the troika, suddenly became something like a troika spokesman, denying here and there that such a request was made. And these people are serious. Our Ministers. Seriously!

This is the situation in which we live for the past two and a half months. Since August the government is spending all its energy carrying out some hidden negotiations with the troika, deciding how they are going to cut 11,5 billion euros from the state budget. One day the Greek government says “this is how we’ll do it” and the other day the troika says “you can’t raise so much money out of it-just fire 10.000 public sector employees’. Government officials, and the Finance Minister Mr Stournaras himself, have informed a number of EU, ECB and IMF officials about what the measures are going to be. But the Greek public… noooo… of course we are not mature enough yet to know. We will be the last ones to find out how much we will be called to pay, how much more tax we should give. Which other nation has been so patient to await for 2,5 months to see how its government, its supposed guardian of its interests, is going to kick  our ass?

And on the top of that, a bunch of Golden Dawn far-rightists, accompanied by two of their MPs and a mob of Christian fanatics, have attempted to block the premiere of a theatrical play. A journalist reported that he got beaten by them-here’s his story made by uniting some of his tweets after his ordeal:

“At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them.  I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ I say “I write for lifo”, hoping to escape a beating. Quite the opposite. They pull me aside, call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’, pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach.  Cops nearby. I shout “They’re beating me, do something?” Reply : I’ve nothing, move along please. The cop’s wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn’t heard.  I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty faggot, go suck someone’s cock!’ I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY”RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.”

The police detained some Christian fanatics during the events. A bit later, one of their MPs, Christos Pappas, approaches a riot police bus and easily drags one of the detainees there. He set him free seconds later, with the policemen staring at him in awe, as if it was the Police Chief. Look for yourself how easy it was (most of the anti-fascist protesters who were arrested last week and were allegedly tortured inside the Police HQ in Athens are probably jealous of how easy it was for Mr Pappas to do this). Christos Pappas is with the blue suit and the tie.

Yes, my friend, this CAN happen in Greece today, as we become a less democratic state, every second day.

Like a virgin

This is a great example if you want to see how a responsible Greek politician behaves in times of crisis. In May 2010, when Greece was about sign the IMF/EU/ECB Memorandum, Michalis Chrysochoidis was not just another Socialist MP but the Minister for Citizen Protection (one of the high profile government posts). Yesterday he was invited to talk to a news program at SKAI TV. The discussion was around a recent criticism on the terms of the Memorandum, highlighted by former Prime Minister Kostas Simitis’ speech at a conference in Berlin. This is the video excerpt from SKAI TV and below a quick translation.

Journalist: Let me ask you directly. How many hours did it take you to read the Memorandum? Because Mrs [Louka] Katseli (the then Minister for the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping) said yesterday that she was given the Memorandum on Saturday night and spent two hours on reading it and this is how she went to vote on it. Have you read what the creditors have written down and did you have a different opinion than theirs? Were you aware of what you were about to sign?
Chrysochoidis: Are you serious?
Journalist: Absolutely.
Chrysochoidis: These things were discussed in the Parliament… No, I haven’t read the Memorandum at that time because, simply, I had other obligations. I had other duties…
Journalists: Excuse Mr. Minister, this is very serious. How did you sign it? Did you sign a text that commits the country for an eternity and that is responsible for the mess in which we are now and you are telling us that you didn’t read it? How can you say this so easily?
Chrysochoidis: Look, in politics things are not like that. 
Journalist: How are they?
Chrysochoidis: Some of my colleagues had negotiated, some of the responsible members which represented the government had negotiated and brought that legislation into the Parliament and, as you remember, it was voted by the majority of the Parliament, by PASOK and LAOS if I remember well.
Journalist: Is there a direct responsibility on the economic staff of the then government [i.e. the Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou]?
Chrysochoidis: As I told you before, it was done so under a state of panic in view of a possible suspension of payments which was a threat over our head. My job at that time was to re-organize the Police, the Fire Brigade, to create the DIAS team [a Police group which patrols in motorbikes], to fight crime. It was not my job to study the Memorandum.

So Mr. Chrysochoidis just said that he signed one of the most important legislation passed in this country without even reading it. He just went the next day to the Parliament and voted for it like an amateur politician. Like a virgin! He didn’t have the time because he was re-organizing the Police which indeed showed a great zeal to crush the demonstrations taking place in the center of Athens. It was the same days when three people were burned in the fire of Marfin Bank, a collateral damage of that day’s violent chaos. The DIAS team were roaming the streets like horses of the Apocalypse, attacking protesters. And yes, crime, there wasn’t much of it that day because the political head of the Police devoted all his time on the issue rather than having a look at the Memorandum.

Katseli & Chrysochoidis

Louka Katseli and Michalis Chrysochoidis getting bored during some speech (it was probably an important one)

Some key things to note which will make some (more) sense. There is a widespread criticism on the terms of the Memorandum even by PASOK MPs, now that the old PASOK (that of George Papandreou) is crumbling. Everyone one is trying to clear his/her name, to distance themselves from the shame of “having been part of it”, preparing for the next day, or simply for the coming elections. Let’s not forget that Mr. Chrysochoidis has declared that he intends to challenge for the PASOK leadership which will be decided very soon. But let’s not be in a hurry and put all the blame to Chrysochoidis for simply telling us the truth. Most, if not all, of the MPs had literally a few hours to read the Memorandum. Among the virgins, there were some prostitutes too.

Here’s an excerpt from an older post that I’ve wrote (The run up to the Greek economic crisis) – it is a translation by an article of To Vima’s journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos.

“We were like prostitutes after their first time” a top government official confessed in his attempt to describe the Cabinet member’s psychological situation during their meeting to sign the Memorandum, on the 5th of May 2010. “We were looking at each other and we were all pale” he says. “We felt very ashamed since we couldn’t believe that we, PASOK, led Greece to the IMF, having chopped the salaries and the pensions”. And then he concludes “Since then we have been completely prostituted. We’ve done the same things over and over again without feeling any shame”. Almost all PASOK politicians admit in private that the Memorandum, despite its provision of some necessary reforms, is synonymous at the same time with the sentencing of the economy to a prolonged depression and with the mortgaging of the country to its lenders. However they recognize that it was the last choice in order to avoid bankruptcy and to secure the savings and the pensions, especially since the government had previously failed to implement the prior solutions.

“The Memorandum was hastily written by us and the troika” admits a high-ranking government official who participated in the (so-called) negotiations. “We had no idea of what we were writing and the troika experts were equally confused, working under great pressure from the European Commission and the IMF”. According to first hand accounts, the slightest preparation hasn’t been made and simply, on the last moment, they isolated part from older IMF Memorandums as those with Turkey, Mexico or Hungary and they would hurriedly adapt them to form the Greek Memorandum. “It’s a bad compilation, a Frankestein-styled Memorandum” says a Minister who admitted that he had less than three hours to read, understand, evaluate and approve the part of the agreement which would commit his Ministry for the next four years.

Obviously this Minister was not Chrysochoidis.

Michalis Chrysochoidis is currently Minister for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping.

On Loukanikos, the riot dog

A couple of days ago I’ve read that Loukanikos, Athens’ riot dog, was included among TIME’s Person of the Year feature story. Its central subject was “The Protester”.

Loukanikos posing for TIME Magazine

Loukanikos posing for TIME Magazine

Loukanikos with Patrick Witty and Peter Hapak after his portrait session for the TIME magazine.

Greece has a history in so-called “riot dogs“. There was Kanellos, now we have Loukanikos, who became internationaly known from a BBC video about the Greek protester’s front line dog. TIME Magazine’s website also hosts a collection of photos with Loukanikos’ appearances. Click here to see the gallery.

Thanks to modern technology, Loukanikos manages to become a sort of a pop idol. Videos in YouTube praising his braveness, blogs, facebook groups that want Loukanikos for Prime Minister, etc. Here’s an animation by Norwegian Flash-animator Bjørn-Magne Stuestøl (www.shagrat.net) in collaboration with David Rovics (from his “Big Red Sessions”-album -free for download at www.davidrovics.com– the song “Riot Dog” is David’s salute to this brave dog’s fight for justice in the economic turmoil that has hit Greece).

A high quality Flash edition of the animation can be seen here:
www.shagrat.net/riot.html

One of my favourite photos of Loukanikos had featured in a contest for Nikon.

Loukanikos “I am the Resistance”

The photo was taken by Aris Messinis (AFP/Getty Images) and can be seen in full here.

And here are some pop graphics of the canine resistance idol.

Loukanikos Che Guevara-style

Loukanikos Obama-style

If you’re interested in following Loukanikos’ activity, follow the Rebel Dog blog which posts photos sent from various people who have met the four-feet rebel.

Greek_riot_dog_by_Latuff2

Loukanikos drawn by Brazilian cartoonist Latuff in 2010.

Isn’t he adorable?

Plainclothes justice 2.0

Yesterday I posted two videos from an incident that took place in downtown Athens where plainclothes policemen arrested a teenager. In that video you can clearly see one of the policemen, in a dark green jacket, acting as the coordinator of the whole thing. I kept telling myself that I’ve seen him before. I did some searching and I found this video. It’s from the same day of protests (the General Strike demonstration on December 15, 2010). The incident takes place in the Exarchia district of Athens.

To translate just a couple of things that are said on the video, at 3:40 the coordinator is asked by the passers-by to give his identity. They ask “Tell us who you are. What are you afraid of?” and he replies “What do you mean “what are you afraid of?”… I’m an officer”. At 3:50 he turns to a woman and tells her “Don’t film the issue, I will break your camera”.

Yesterday’s videos where from Akadimias street, in the center of Athens. That plainclothes police team seems to have been pretty busy on that day.

Plainclothes justice

The majority of foreign journalists with whom I have worked with here in Greece found it very hard, if impossible, to believe the role (if not the existence itself) of plainclothes policemen during various demonstrations in Greece. When I’d first mention their existence they would think I’m some kind of hardline leftist who sees parastatal ghosts around him all the time. At times I would be in a position to show them one of the photos that have been circulated in Greek websites and blogs, but still, it wasn’t that impressive. So here’s a video from yesterday’s demonstration which commemorated the 3rd year from the assassination of 15 years old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police man 2010. [Update: Thanks to my friend M.B. who pointed out to me that the video was from the demonstration of the 15/12/2010 general strike – I have hastily embedded the video and mistook it as a yesterday’s incident because of its Youtube upload date. The point of the post remains the same. Apologies.]

In the video several plainclothes policemen hang around side by side with riot police. At some point a bunch of hooded plainclothes policemen approach a teenager and proceed in his arrest. The teenager says “I was at my university school”. Here’s the incident from a second mobile phone recording.

There have been many occasions where protesters have accused plainclothes policemen of causing the typically Greek (and radically vain) “molotov cocktail” violence in order to justify tons of tear gas spraying by riot police which have repeatedly dispersed powerful and peaceful demonstrations in the past.

I don’t care if this kid has actually done something wrong – I just don’t like to live in a country (remember that “cradle of democracy” cliche?) where plainclothes policemen simply have the power to arrest people in this way.

Not in my name, “gentlemen”.

PS: I wonder what the Minister for Citizen Protection (sic) has to say about this video.

Update: Read also “Plainclothes justice 2.o

Men of Iron

This morning, I woke up and read the story of the Greek Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI and their occupation of a company’s building. It wasn’t just a random building of course but the data-processing center from which disconnection orders are issued. You see, a couple of months ago the Greek government has announced the levying of a new property tax (in relation to the square meters of the property) which would be incorporated in our electricity bills. Why the electricity bills? So that people HAD to pay the tax in order to avoid a very short-term and vital consequence, having their electricity supply cut off.

Nikos Fotopoulos greeted his comrades from the prosecutor's office window

The GENOP-DEI union’s leader, Nikos Fotopoulos, posed as a hero immediately after the announcement. He said that DEI’s workers would never allow such a thing to be carried out with the help of their hands. Some people wondered back then: Who actually governs this country? Can a trade unionist block an elected government’s policy? Well, today the government has tried to perform its own tour de force. Nikos Fotopoulos and 9 other GENOP-DEI union officials were detained after up to 80 riot policemen were sent in to end the four-day sit-in at the Public Power Corporation (DEI) data processing centre. Fotopoulos himself appeared before a prosecutor on charges of  obstructing the functioning of a public utility. The riot policemen arrested 5 more people in the event (3 employees in Ministries, a pensioner and an unemployed man). “We’ll always fail the exam of the course on Submission” shouted Fotopoulos from the prosecutor’s office window as another Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t believe that the new property tax is fair. Especially when exceptions have not been designed (unemployed people for example also have to pay this). The implementation of the law caused laughter in some cases, anger in some other. There was a big debate in September on whether churches should pay the tax, based on the square meters of the temples. And there was an uproar a couple of days ago when some earthquake victims (of a 1995 quake, who were promised to get preferential loans in order to rebuild their homes) were sent their electricity bill which included the new property tax, based on the square meters of the container-houses in which they are living since the 1995 earthquake. However I believe that what GENOP-DEI is doing with these shows of rebelliousness is just an act in order to gain public sympathy in their struggle to protect their guild’s benefits. See this post for another show by GENOP-DEI.

This trade union is not alone though. It is not uncommon during the past months to see trade unions which in the past were synonymous to either the interwoven political and business interests (e.g. journalists) or the state protectionism of special groups of public employees. Of course this is not to say that all trade unions function like that in Greece (but a lot of my friends would say that the majority of them do).

Strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks)

One example for what I wrote above is this. Given the opportunity of a 25-day long strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks) which has gone largely unreported by the Greek mainstream media (thanks to business relations, advertisement, you name it) the Union of Journalists of Athens’ Newspapers (ESIEA) has sent a newsletters showing their support to the workers at the steelworks. While I was writing this, I found another example. The Union of Employees at the Public Broadcasting Corporation (POSPERT) have stated their support to GENOP-DEI and demanded (?) the release of the arrested trade unionists. Here are the relevant newsletters (from ESIEA and from POSPERT), unfortunately only in Greek.

It’s fantastic! Greek trade unions seem to have remembered that they represent the working class of this country. Too bad they are a bit too late.

PS. A very common slogan during the demonstrations in Athens which aims to show the hidden agenda of trade unionists (who usually end up in the Parliament with one political party or another) is this: Αλήτες, λέρες, εργατοπατέρες. I’d be grateful if a Greek reader could translate it. :-)